Creating winter interest in the garden

 In Landscaping, Landscaping Services

Your garden needn’t suddenly become out of bounds when winter comes around. Here are my tips for creating winter interest in your garden.

Designing a winter garden is a very different skill to creating a summer space. Cold, wet days mean that the garden is more likely to be viewed through a window than up close. Dark evenings only add to the temptation to stay indoors.

However, it’s impossible to escape the fact that spending time outdoors brings a big boost to wellbeing. even a quick spin around the garden on a bright afternoon is enough to put roses in your cheeks and get the circulation going.

So here are my landscaping tips to create winter interest that will a) make your garden look better through the window and b) Tempt you outside to explore a bit more

In the absence of colour – use plants to make interesting shapes

cypress fir creating shape in the garden

These plants are still young but you can already see how the cypress firs (tall pointy trees) contrast with the standard trees beside them and the spiky cordeline (strappy purple leaves).
Architectural plants like these are great for creating winter interest.

yellow flowers and serrated evergreen leaves of mahonia

Mahonia is a great shrub for winter interest. The bright yellow blooms really cut through the gloom on a dull day and they’re very attractive to any bees bold enough to brave the weather.

using seedheads for winter interest

You could also consider using seedheads for winter interest. These teasels are a biannual plant great for the back of the border or in a wildflower area.
They look great with the frost on them – and even better when cut and brought indoors.


Plant up some seasonal pots and containers

Beds and borders are not the only way of cultivating plants. Why not experiment with plants in pots? There is still a lot of choice in garden centres at this time of year.  Winter flowering pansies are cheap and cheerful. Variegated ivy, evergreen conifers and heathers, grasses, cyclamen – the list is surprisingly long.

creating winter interest in the garden by using seasonal plants in an unusual container

Anything with drainage holes and the capacity to hold soil can be used as a planter. This galvanised bucket is home to an ornamental cabbage, a variegated ivy, a winter flowering heather and a young cordeline. There are some snowdrop bulbs in there too for an added pop of joy in the early part of the year.

Place planted pots at the door or within sight of your kitchen and/or living room windows. Or turn them into a focal point in the garden so that you simply have to nip outside to check on them.

The art of creating winter interest in pots is all about plant combinations. Mix and match a little. Even the almost bare twigs of witch hazel can be made to look spectacular. You can also add ornaments or twinkly lights for extra effect. As a rule of thumb, try to include a ‘thriller’ a ‘spiller’ and a ‘filler’. In other words, an eyecatching plant with plenty of wow factor, something to dangle over the edges of the planter and a lower growing plant to fill the gaps and hide the growing medium. There’s no harm in adding some spring flowering bulbs to a winter-interest container. It will give your planted display a longer period of interest.

Make the most of garden lighting

Your garden needn’t be plunged into darkness at 3pm and remain invisible until 8am the next morning. Clever lighting can create features of structures and plants.

Did you know that some lighting systems can be operated from a phone app? If you wanted to, you could play with lighting colours and effects without leaving the comfort of your living room

using garden lighting for winter interest

A partially completed project by SilverBirch Gardens. This photograph was taken on a summer evening but can you imagine looking out of your window on a winters afternoon and being greeting by softly glowing lights?

Feed the birds

great tits visiting a garden bird feeder

A simple bird feeder can create a wealth of winter interest in the garden. There’s colour, there’s movement, and plenty of “Instagrammable” photo opportunities.

Wild birds are always hungry at this time of year. You can create winter interest in your garden and help wildlife by making a bird feeding station. Make sure it’s visible from the house and you’ll find yourself mesmerised by the variety of little visitors you can see and hear during the day. Remember to put water out too – especially if all around is frozen.

Create a cosy corner

Some winter days are so bright that it seems like a crime to be indoors – until you step outside and feel the temperature! But you can be outdoors soaking up the vitamin D without being exposed to biting winds. A carefully designed “cosy corner” shelters you from the worst of the weather but still allows you to feel as though you are outdoors.

Position your shelter so that it catches the winter sun. Choose furniture wisely – metal chairs can be pretty uncomfortable if they’re cold! Take a blanket and a hot drink out with you.  Why not listen to a podcast, read a book or simply watch the birds whilst out there.

3d garden design plan with green wall panels

Designed by Daniel. This 3D plan shows a garden in a more summery mode, but the pergola, pizza oven and pots will adapt easily to any season. Add twinkling lights for a winter wonderland.

back garden idea with pergola, built in seating and beautiful planting

This ultra modern pergola has a louvred roof which means that it can be used all year round. You could specify removable sides to make it even more cosy in winter. Add lights, blankets a movie screen and your favourite film and your garden could be the venue for many happy evenings in.

Warm things up with a Firepit

I love a chimaera or a fire pit. They’re a great centrepiece if you’re entertaining at any time of year. So if you invest in a fire pit for winter, you’ll almost certainly use it for summer evenings too. In winter, sitting near an outdoor fire is like food for the soul.

For foodies – an outdoor kitchen can be used all 12 months of the year. Imagine cooking your Christmas turkey on the barbecue or seeing in the New Year with a barbecue.

outdoor kitchen with built in breakfast bar and barbecue

Not my work but I love everything about this outdoor kitchen, from the stone cladding to the lighting. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful venue for a winter party?

Go-on! Use your winter garden to make some memories.


If you would like to make your garden more interesting all year round, why not get in touch to discuss your ideas?


Find out why winter is the best time to design a new garden




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